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Swine Flu FAQ

Answers to your questions about swine flu.

Help! I've been exposed to H1N1 swine flu. What should I do? continued...

Instead, the CDC advises at-risk individuals to call their health care providers if they are exposed to flu. The provider may choose to write a prescription for Tamiflu or Relenza, to be filled only if flu symptoms appear. Or the provider may ask the patient to call again at the first sign of flu, at which time a prescription will be written.

Don't wait for a rapid flu test. The tests often give negative results even in people who really have H1N1 swine flu. If you've got flu symptoms and you're at risk of severe disease, start taking flu drugs right away. The drugs work best when taken within 48 hours of the first symptom, although even when taken much later they can prevent severe illness.

What if you aren't at risk and don't have to care for an infant?

In that case, the CDC's basic advice is for you to stock up on chicken soup, line up some tender loving care, and plan to stay home if you get sick. The vast majority of otherwise healthy people who get H1N1 swine flu pull through just fine, after a few miserable days of flu symptoms.

BUT: The flu is a tricky disease. If you do get the flu and develop any of the warning signs of severe disease -- especially trouble breathing, or getting worse after feeling better -- call your doctor right away. It's especially important to watch younger children for signs of severe disease, such as irritability, refusal to eat, trouble waking, bluish or grayish skin color, or a fever that goes down and then shoots back up.

If I think I have swine flu, what should I do? When should I see my doctor?

If you have flu symptoms, stay home, and when you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Afterward, throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands. That will help prevent your flu from spreading. If you can do it comfortably, wear a surgical mask if you must be around others.

If you have only mild flu symptoms, you do not need medical attention unless your illness gets worse. But if you are in one of the groups at high risk of severe disease, contact your doctor at the first sign of flu-like illness. In such cases, the CDC recommends that people call or email their doctor before rushing to an emergency room.

But heed these signs of a medical emergency:

Children should be given urgent medical attention if they:

  • Have fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Have bluish or gray skin color
  • Are not drinking enough fluid
  • Are not waking up or not interacting
  • Have severe or persistent vomiting
  • Are so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Have flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and a worse cough
  • Have fever with a rash
  • Have a fever and then have a seizure or sudden mental or behavioral change.

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